Hushpuppy Corporation of America, R.I.P.

“In 1948, an entrepreneur named Walter Thompson from the tiny coastal town of Swansboro, North Carolina, decided to take hushpuppies nationwide. He concocted a ready-mix blend of cornmeal, flour, and seasoning, packaged it in pasteboard tubes, and branded it Thompson’s Fireside Hushpuppy Mix. ‘Just add water,’ the label promised. ‘A delightfully different Southern hot bread.’ It sold for 30 cents a can.

“Thompson ambitiously named his company ‘The Hushpuppy Corporation of America.’ He struck deals with distributors throughout the South, but his big score was landing John R. Marple & Co. of Westfield, N.J., which became the national distributor for Thompson’s Fireside Hushpuppy Mix and promoted it through a series of newspaper and radio ads.

“Thompson got out of the business just a year after launching it, selling the Hushpuppy Corporation of America to several investors, who moved it to the larger town of Jacksonville, North Carolina. They kept Thompson’s Fireside Hushpuppy Mix on the market for at least two more decades. The Hushpuppy Corporation of America was purchased around 1970 by House-Autry Mills of Four Oaks, North Carolina, which still sells two varieties today: Original Hushpuppy Mix and Hushpuppy Mix with Onion.”

— From “The Real History of Hushpuppies” by Robert Moss at Serious Eats (Aug. 10, 2018)

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